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Re: link in new window debate

From: Phill Jenkins <pjenkins@us.ibm.com>
Date: Wed, 19 Nov 2003 09:55:05 -0600
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <OF418E1151.D60B3A44-ON86256DE3.00514DA5-86256DE3.005791B9@us.ibm.com>

>Please learn about transformable content. That is where web
>accessibility is going.

What do you think true assistive technologies have been doing?  The
transformation is happening at the client controlled by the user.  There
are also models where the transformation happens at the server (or anywhere
in-between), but then you still need to capture the user preferences and
configuration, and more importantly worry about security and privacy. IBM
has been involved with assistive technologies and specifically screen
readers for decades.  Do you know where the term screen reader came from? -
the first one I know of is the Screen Reader for DOS from IBM in the
1980's.  IBM Research also had a server side transformation project that
had been running for years, known as Web Access Gateway (WAG). WAG
basically did the job of the assistive technology, for example by
magnifying the content, before delivering it to the browser.  That was
demonstrated at CSUN a few years back.  The latest IBM research project is
now called Web Adaptation Technology (WAT). 

Everyone please understand, this is not an argument about whether people
with cognitive disabilities, or any other disability,  need to reduce the
unannounced opening of new windows, of course that is needed.  The whole
point of my earlier post was to question the logic of where to place the
burden of removing the barriers, where to place the burden of doing the
transformation?.  Options include the author, the browser+assistive
technology (including server side), and the user's configuration settings
in the Operating System/platform.

I totally understand the term "transformable content", that is a synonym
for "technically accessible" content.  It's content that is enabled to be
accessible to a person with a disability using a properly configured
assistive technology and system.  To properly understand what is required
for the content to be transformable, we all need to understand the
capabilities (and responsibilities) of the browser and assistive technology
.  This is the research that is needed to properly update WCAG 2.0.

WCAG 1.0 checkpoint 10.1 was specifically written with this notion of the
browser responsibility in mind.  The "Working Group does not expect these
checkpoints to be necessary in the future..." [see note 2]:
"Until user agents allow users to turn off spawned windows, do not cause
pop-ups or other windows to appear and do not change the current window
without informing the user."

The only way to accommodate both those who want multiple windows opened -
and -  those who need to only have one is for the assistive technology,
browser, and/or the operating system/platform to handle it.  When we place
all the burden on the author, by telling her that she can't use code that
opens the help page in a new window, then everyone unfairly gets the same

I do not agree with placing overlapping checkpoints in the various
guidelines.  For example if we place a requirement in WCAG to require the
author to tell the user that the link will open in a new window, and then
we also tell the user agent in UAAG to also notify the user that the link
will open in a new window, then what the end users ends up hearing is:
"opens in a new window, opens in a new window" twice.  As a user I can turn
off the second announcement, if the browser and/or assistive technology
will allow, but how do I turn off what the author placed in the content?
As an end user I can't go randomly deleting text, nor is it always
efficient to ask the author to add more notation to conditionally exclude
some of the text.  There is already plenty of syntactical information (read
transformable or technically accessible markup) supplied by the author when
using the HTML coding to open the help in a new page. It's now up to the
browser and assistive technology (or server side at) to deliver to the end
user what he prefers.

Note 1: IBM Web Adaptation Technology http://www.research.ibm.com/access/
Note 2: WCAG 1.0 Guidelines 10

Phill Jenkins
Received on Wednesday, 19 November 2003 10:55:10 UTC

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